Ellie Goulding, Hydro, Glasgow, gig review: A collision of sweet balladry and neon-flecked EDM workouts

Oddly she seems entirely at home with neither, yet professionally more than capable of both

David Pollock
Monday 21 March 2016 15:34
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Ellie Goulding.
Ellie Goulding.

As girls next door go, the cheerful, Herefordshire-raised Ellie Goulding doesn’t quite enjoy the same everybody’s-ideal-sister magnetism of Taylor Swift, but she still seems very lovely. Her show is a collision of sweet balladry for the big stage and neon-flecked EDM workouts, and oddly she seems entirely at home with neither, yet professionally more than capable of both.

Running from January until October of this year, Goulding’s Delirium tour is a proper big-leagues, internationally scaled production, no doubt buoyed by the huge success of her track ‘Love Me Like You Do’ from the soundtrack of last year’s Fifty Shades of Grey movie (the song has racked up a billion YouTube views and still counting). Sporting a moveable catwalk platform and a large wraparound screen in the background, the better for the twelve thousand fans crammed in to see her, even the star seemed overwhelmed. “I’m used to playing to six or seven hundred people,” she gasped, looking around. “Things are a bit different now…”

As usual with such events, the scale and discipline of a military operation was in evidence, with elaborate set-pieces like the large sails which rose from the catwalk to create a temporary backdrop and the rigid mark-hitting which saw Goulding transported from the stage by a lowering platform for yet another costume change. When she appeared in a long white dress for ‘Explosions’ and her cover of the Waterboys’ ‘How Long Will I Love You?’ she confessed that “I feel like I have to wear dresses for work but I’m really not a dress girl - it would be a bit inappropriate if I wore a track suit, though.”

Yet it’s on these sparser, more tender arrangements that her voice seems to be at its most natural. There is a power and an assured quality to Goulding’s vocal, and it quite easily proves itself worthy of carrying a show of this scale whatever it’s singing. That the fancy-frocked uniform of mellifluous balladry doesn’t sit comfortably belies her ability with such music, and the gently unpretentious way she delivers it. “That’s my thing, I do tend to write about people I’ve been with,” she grimaces at one point. “Well, we’re all friends here, right?”

Elsewhere, while her vocal prowess and informal intimacy is lost a little amidst the power-pop sugar rush created by her team of musicians and backing singers, she has some great radio hits which bounce on a wave of workout-soundtracking EDM beats, fuelled by a bottle of what Goulding calls “party petrol” (“not essential for life, but still very nice”). That Calvin Harris had a hand in the clubby ‘Outside’ – delivered with fist in the air and an exhortation to jump - is unsurprising, while ‘Don’t Need Nobody’ is a lithe dancefloor banger.

‘Army’s strident hymn to best-friendship managed a strong sense of personalised intimacy, augmented by a heartfelt dedication to Goulding’s own best friend, and her feat in getting almost everyone to lower their phones for ‘Burn’ was quite remarkable. The encore began with her faithful cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ and ended with the big-room theatrics of ‘Love Me Like You Do’, both very different forms of popular song at which she proves herself more than adept.

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